Structured document formats like DITA, DocBook, and Solbook are characterized by deeply nested tags and a multitude of schema constraints. Unstructured tagging languages like HTML, on the other hand, are wide open. In one meeting, every reason we came up with that made them seem necessary, was answered by a convincing counter argument. "Reuse" would seem to be the most important reason. And maybe there are some compelling cases. But maybe all-out reuse isn't needed. Maybe we really only need a very restricted form that solves those cases.
A recent thread on the dita-users list discussed specialization as an extension of the DITA OT by restrictive substitution. This is best done by creating a DITA-OT plugin.
Plugins are overrides to the OT code that add functionality. Plugins are used to add new specializations to the OT and to define new specialization targets for output processing of the specialized elements. If they are designed properly, plugins can be added to an upgraded version of the OT and still run properly.
The Central Texas DUG presentations on Wikis and DITA, and Eric Arnstrong's excellent review of the benefits of structured formats and DITA compared to alternatives like a Wiki, raises the question of whether we are perhaps trying to force DITA into too many places.
Eric focused in on the reason structured formats are difficult to use - they force you to learn the tagging structure (DITA has about 120 tags, DocBook 800, and XHTML only about 80).
We tackled this question and then some at the January Central Texas DITA User Group meeting. Sides are available on Slideshare here:
Can we get volunteers to restart the NYDUG?
The single most active content on the DITA.XML.org website is people looking at the now very dated page for DITA Users in New York.
Here are the all-time DITA.XML.org site statistics:
New York DITA Users Group 53210 reads
DITA User Groups 19113 reads
DITA Knowledge Base 15766 reads
Resources 13013 reads
Topic-based authoring 12518 reads
We really should be reaching out to these thousands of potential DITA Users in the New York area!